So today I wanted to start by talking parenting a little bit with you. It seems fitting because we have so many young people, getting married and getting ready to have children that I thought we could talk a little bit about being a parent. I have to tell you that it has been the greatest experience for Mashawn and I. It really takes you out of a “me” first mentality and puts you in a mode of love and serving. Let’s face it before kids as a young married couple you try to tell people how busy you are but the busiest part of the day is when you both get home from your jobs and figure out what fun thing you are going to do next. Now all of a sudden, there is someone who depends on you completely and it is a game changer. Well, let me say it this way, it SHOULD be a game changer where you place that beautiful baby’s needs ahead of your own. Culturally that isn’t always what is going on, but it should be. Becoming a parent is an awesome thing, and as the children grow it can be a challenge too. But my first and highest priority for you young people heading towards parenting is to challenge you to step into it 110% and literally be a parent. If you do that, it is a wonderful thing. If you keep wanting to do things your way, parenting will be hard. It’s amazing now, as my own kids are getting older, I have two teenagers now, and two in grade school, and there definitely are challenges. Having lived 3 decades longer than the kids, you see some things coming at them a mile away and just want to help them where you can. You also want them to experience life and learn and my prayer is that my own kids just wouldn’t learn the way that I did which unfortunately for me was through pain. I wish they could just hear me sometimes and except what I’m saying as loving guidance and not have to walk through and experience things the way I did. There are certain rules that are put in place in my house…now just to be clear, I don’t think the bar is set all that high. It’s not set nearly as high as what our parents had set for us, and I like to think of myself as a pretty cool dad but man when we brush up against those rules, we can really have some really colorful moments. You know really tough stuff like bed times. Or getting your homework done, or what we eat for dinner vs what would actually be called junk food…you know the real oppressive stuff like that is often met with resistance and here’s what’s funny, every rule I have isn’t for my benefit…but will help them live a healthier life. Well things like turning the lights out when you leave a room are more for me…I feel like I just walk around turning out lights that no one ever turned on, but I digress…everything I ask of them is hopefully a life lesson, and can leave them physically, spiritually, and emotionally healthy. It’s why we have rule in my home, they are put there because I love them. Even in the rare instances where I have to punish them, it’s because I love them and I want what’s best for them. As a dad sometimes I just wish they would see that the oppression of not allowing you to stay up until midnight on a school night isn’t just because I enjoy the torture, but because I love you and know how much you need the rest. I can think back to my days growing up, and I didn’t get it either…but I do now. All the rules, all the parental guidance and commands it was to help me…not oppress me.
It’s funny because that parent to child relationship is such clear imagery of God our Heavenly Father and us His children and our relationship. He puts rules in a place. He gives us commands, and we seem to kick and push against them too. It’s a funny thing but being a Pastor is similar to the feeling of being a parent. You pray for people all the time. You study scripture and see the depth and health that could come if people could simply submit to God’s desires for their life and it’s hard to watch people kick and push against that. It’s amazing what kind of life we could have if we would follow God’s principles for life. It’s so clear, it’s all in writing in our scriptures. We read it, and even agree with it…but living it out? That’s a whole other thing. I have way too much going on, or too many goals for myself to ever follow God’s commands and here’s what is so interesting. All of the commands of God that are put in place, aren’t put there to oppress you but to open you up to a full, healthy, life with depth, and meaning, and joy. Rules and boundaries on everything from sex, to money, to spiritual health, to relationships, to work, and even to rest (ps-rest is the thing you do when you aren’t working.) it’s all put in place as a way to enhance our lives but we don’t see it that way and I will tell you why…it’s because as a people we want to do what we want to do when we want to do it…some would call that rebellion which is what we are talking about today. It’s not really all that different than my relationship as a father to my children. The rules are there out of love to help, nurture, and guide to a better life! Yet for the majority of people they have to go do it their own way…just like me, it often takes pain to open our eyes to God’s way of living over doing life my way. It’s amazing culturally some of the challenges we face today in the areas of stress, anxiety, and exhaustion. It’s a huge problem. Here’s what’s incredible to me, did you know that doctors are literally starting to prescribe a day of rest each week to people? It’s literally been a studied by the medical field and these medical experts have found that we humans need a day off a week to rest or we will struggle with our health! I’m pretty sure I’ve read about that before…oh yeah! God commanded it! It’s one of the Ten Commandments.
Exodus 20:8 “Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days a week are set apart for your daily duties and regular work, 10 but the seventh day is a day of rest dedicated to the LORD your God. On that day no one in your household may do any kind of work. This includes you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, your livestock, and any foreigners living among you. 11 For in six days the LORD made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and everything in them; then he rested on the seventh day. That is why the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as holy. NLT
So interesting that we had to go to medical school to understand our deep need of rest…when God has been prescribing it since the beginning of time…well this is something we need to talk about today.
Today we continue this series called “My Story” where we are looking at seven big decisions that will really determine the direction of your life, they are game changers and how you come out on these things will forever mark your story. Today we are going to talk about one that I think is not only important but can be a pretty touchy subject. Today we are going to talk about this idea of rebellion vs submission. Now in the past depending on who our President is this subject is the one that has gotten me the most emails and concerns. It’s the subject of submitting to authority. People don’t like the idea of submission…but what’s funny is they don’t believe not submitting or disobeying authority is rebellion either. But by definition not submitting to someone in authority over you would be you rebelling against authority. There are lots of different types of authority over us from government leaders making decisions for us. Police out their working to protect us. We go to work and have bosses. We go to school and have teachers. We have coaches in sports, and we come to church and have leaders there too and God would say that we should submit to those in authority over us. Which can be a challenging thing. Now, I know, I know, we are not rebels but do we really like to submit to authority? Check out how strong God feels about this as He speaks through the prophet Samuel here in a time where King Saul has just done the opposite of what God asked…
1 Samuel 15:22 But Samuel replied, “What is more pleasing to the LORD: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Obedience is far better than sacrifice. Listening to him is much better than offering the fat of rams. 23 Rebellion is as bad as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as bad as worshiping idols. So because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has rejected you from being king.” NLT
What a strong statement! Samuel let’s Saul know that you can do all the good “churchy” things and they don’t matter if you aren’t obeying God’s will. Then he tells him that rebellion is literally as bad as witchcraft and that stubbornness is as bad as idol worship! And I can tell you why, it’s because in the end your ability to obey God’s commands is everything! It shows faith and trust to submit and obey.
So here’s what I SHOULD be doing with this subject. I should hammer away now on submitting to authority. I should take you to all the different places in scripture where Paul tells us to submit to our government officials (the ones we voted for and even the ones we didn’t!) I could come at you with how we are rebellious against different levels of authority from the child’s coach, right up to the President of the United States but that isn’t where my heart is for us today. My heart for today is to look directly at our rebellion against God and to look at what I would say is the number one way I will know if I’m not submitting to the will of God in our culture today. It’s actually pretty sneaky, and I don’t think many of us would see this as rebellion, which is why we need to talk about it. I love you too much not to talk this growing problem in our culture today, and at its very core is us not being willing to submit to God’s will for our lives. You know those oppressive rules that were actually put in place to help us live a life with health, and depth, and joy.
You know there is an ongoing theme in our community today. Now sometimes when I say our community I am just talking about us here at MRC but right now, I’m saying there is a theme to everyone inside and outside of the church. You know what it is? We are exhausted. What’s weird about that is, this is spring time! So outside of allergies hitting us hard this is a time for flowers, and new life, and warm weather starting to come. It’s supposed to be a time of refreshing new starts, but the majority of people I am talking to in the church, around town, around the soccer fields are just completely worn out. The theme is that life is a grind and they are too busy to think, or find any way out of the grind they are in. Come on everyone this is spring for crying out loud! Yet here we are, just counting down the days to the summer vacation, you know that week that you use to compensate for the other 358 days of chaos that you live in…where you come home more tired with a sunburn and call it refreshing? Yeah that week. The theme all around us right now is this, that life is crazy, it’s a grind, and we as a people are worn thin, and see no way out. We have no answers for this grind we call life and it’s really what I want to talk about today, not to make you feel worse about it…but because I love you I want you to see something today.
Let’s do some basic math here. Busyness leads to exhaustion. Busyness is the most popular symptom today of our rebellion against God’s commands which were put in place to keep us healthy, with a life full of depth, energy, and joy. We can agree on this right? Running like crazy doesn’t lead to health. The math is this busyness + running thin = exhaustion.
So here’s the thing, when I talk to non-Christians who have no concepts of God’s desires for how to live, I can totally understand why they would be so tired. Why life would be such a grind. Because they don’t have the advantage of God’s loving guidance. But for those of us who would say we follow God’s loving command’s, I don’t get it. Now I have four children, and they have schedules, on top of my wife and I’s schedules, so that’s six schedules to juggle so I’m not here to tell you I am great at this either…and if that isn’t enough for you, I was a General Superintendent running a lot of field operations for a large construction company so I get how busy life can get, but I also know that in my own exhausted, overwhelming moments I found that it was because as I got busier and busier I started to violate many of the boundaries and rhythms to life that God put in place that would keep me from exhaustion and burn out. So I’m not saying if you are tired you are a sinner or in rebellion, but I am saying that we who live a life in Christ regardless of the activities are said to have a different kind of life in us. Yes you can be tired at times, but no, overwhelmed, tired, and stuck in the grind of life should not be the life you describe. We who live in Christ should have a life with energy, and depth and joy. Not a life of burned out, exhaustion, and over-commitment. A Christian life should look different because we are following the loving guidance of God. We also have a power infused into us through the Holy Spirit that should set us apart from this world. Again, I’m not saying you can’t be tired, but your Christian life should look different. Look at what Paul says here…
Philippians 2:12 Be energetic in your life of salvation, reverent and sensitive before God. 13 That energy is God’s energy, an energy deep within you, God himself willing and working at what will give him the most pleasure. 14 Do everything readily and cheerfully — no bickering, no second-guessing allowed! 15 Go out into the world uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air in this squalid and polluted society. Provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God. Carry the light-giving Message into the night. MSG
God’s energy should be surging through us and setting us apart from the world…but is it? Because the theme of life as a grind isn’t just outside of MRC, but it’s in here too. Why are we worn so thin? Why are we who should have this God energy so exhausted? We have a God who loved us enough to set up rules for us to live better lives, healthier lives, rest-filled lives, but we see no way to find that kind of rest. It’s amazing how annoying those pesky 10 Commandments can be. God obviously didn’t have any idea the kind of specialized training our children would need to play kid’s sports. God obviously didn’t understand that technology that we have that completely takes our boundaries away…which is why He could tell those people in the Old Testament times things like take a full day to NOT work. He couldn’t have known just how important I would become right? But think this through, God did know and does know! And now we have doctor’s coming back to us and prescribing rest and asking people to set the kind of boundaries God wants us to have and has always asked us to have since the beginning of time. Interesting isn’t it that written in the stones of the 10 Commandments was the one thing we won’t do…but we are not rebellious against God’s will…let’s read it again just for fun…
Exodus 20:8 “Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days a week are set apart for your daily duties and regular work, 10 but the seventh day is a day of rest dedicated to the LORD your God. On that day no one in your household may do any kind of work. NLT
I know, I know you would never rebel against authority. You certainly would never rebel against God. You love God and would never act like a child does with a parent. Well, that child loves the parent too, but just can’t see the love of the parent in the rules which is why they push against it. No you won’t rebel but you won’t execute the most foundational things from spending time with God each day to resting once a week…all of which God asks of you to simply help you live out a better life. I know for those of you stuck in the grind, it’s hard to hear but I want you thinking this all through today.
What if busyness is more than just something you are stuck in? What if busyness is actually us rebelling against God? What if it is exactly the same thing as our children pushing against what we ask even as we know what we are asking them to do will actually help them? I believe that this theme of a tired and busy community is showing us something that we need to see. We are out of step with God. I want you to see a few things about busyness here today.
When we are busy we feel better about ourselves because in our culture today, busy means I’m important. If I tell you that I exercise at lunch time, and spend time hiking on the weekends with my family, and that I have boundaries and health in my life what do you hear? Most would say that they hear someone who doesn’t work hard. Or someone who isn’t as important as they are. Busyness and over-committing is a form of pride. It’s a way to look important to people while destroying your own heart condition. Think about the conversations you have with people…You hearing a lot of people brag about their healthy boundaries and rest these days? No that wouldn’t sound good would it?
Busyness can be the product of a messed up view of the Gospel. We often end up cluttering up our lives doing a lot of good things. When we do this we are seeking to build up our own righteousness, we are earning our goodness! Maybe even replacing Jesus in our own lives in the process, which isn’t good, and runs completely contrary to everything we believe, celebrate, and worship as Christians. Remember we humans stink at being good. We needed the Savior and we have one in Jesus…many of us misunderstand the Gospel and we clutter up our lives trying to earn the very thing that they receive through Jesus! When we get the following verse life gets easier…
Ephesians 2:8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. NIV
Busyness is a great way to hide. When I am busy I don’t have to address my heart condition. I don’t have to engage into relationships. I don’t have to deal with life because I’m so important and just too busy to deal with anything real. I know, I know the email inbox is growing every minute but you don’t have to engage it…I think deep down we know that eternal things are just so much more important than whether or not you respond to the email quickly enough or not. In many ways by staying busy I don’t have to deal with anything real which is a great way to mask real issues in our lives.
Busyness is a great way to miss out on our personal relationship with God through Jesus. When we are here working all the time, we can completely miss out on the unbelievable relationship with God that Jesus told you He came to give you…you know that whole life to the full thing. I want you to see something from CS Lewis from his writing “The Contemplative Pastor”:
“I am busy because I am vain. I want to appear important. Significant. What better way than to be busy? The incredible hours, the crowded schedule, and the heavy demands of my time are proof to myself- and to all who notice-that I am important. If I go to the doctor’s office and find there’s no one waiting, and I see through the half open door the doctor reading a book, I wonder if he’s any good…Such experiences affect me. I live in a society in which crowded schedules and harassed conditions are evidence of importance, so I develop a crowded schedule and harassed conditions. When others notice, they acknowledge my significance, and my vanity is fed. I am busy because I am lazy. I indolently let others decide what I will do instead of resolutely deciding myself.” CS Lewis
Do you see the set up to busyness and how destructive it can be? What a powerful thought on how sucked into the rest of the worlds ways we become? It’s like everyone else is making our decisions for us. How does this happen? Because I don’t think we are sitting around scheming up ways to rebel against God and run ourselves into the ground! No, we don’t like the grind, yet we are stuck in it. So what is the deal? Who decided that this was the way life had to be? Who decided that if you aren’t busy you have no value? Well this is important for us to see today. Maybe it’s more than just us trying to do life our way…this is the work of our enemy. We live in a world where we never have enough time. We live in a world where we are overworked, over-stressed, spiritually and physically exhausted and the scariest part of that is…we know it. Not only do we know it, we will tell others about it. Yet when you are in it, there just doesn’t seem to be a way out of it. The entire world pushes against God’s ways. Our culture screams go, go, go! Get what you can, achieve, never stop! Life has become a race, right down to things that used to be fun like youth sports have become so hyper competitive that we are losing our minds and emptying bank accounts on our child if they show even the slightest glimpse of promise on the field…and if we don’t we know someone else is getting out ahead of us! How did everything become a race against everyone else? Wow, this world and its patterns are lethal. Our enemy is so slick…and the grind of life is taking out children of God each and every day. Satan loves to keep us running thin. Tired and exhausted is easier for him to deal with. If he can keep us there he can minimize our usefulness to the kingdom work at hand, and keep us from realizing that our true value isn’t found in us, or our accomplishments but in Jesus! Satan rules this world, and this culture, he has set this pattern of busyness, competition, and clutter…and you know what? I think we Christians, we know that too. Most of us can quote this next verse…
Romans 12:2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is-his good, pleasing and perfect will. NIV
Here’s what is funny, that verse is on coffee cups, and on t-shirts all over the place. We know it. We hear Paul’s warning against fitting in to the ways of the world…yet we continue to allow the world to set the tone of our lives for us. We read it and we believe it. Then we go right back to conforming to the patterns of this world.
It’s interesting to look at Jesus’ life and how opposite he was to everyone else. He thought opposite. He saw success completely opposite of the way we do. He refused to compete with people. What a gift. As we study Jesus we see what it looks like to live life differently. Jesus was constantly pulling away from busyness and Earthly views of success. He modelled an intentional rhythm to life regardless of how it looked to everyone around Him, he would not conform to the patterns of this world…and if you think about it, as the Savior of all mankind he was pretty important and had some weight to carry too!
Mark 6:31 Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” 32 So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. NIV
This was at a time right after he sent the disciples out two by two and they did a lot of great things…shouldn’t they build off the momentum? I mean the people are coming and popularity is growing! Nope, it’s time to go rest and center ourselves again. Its opposite isn’t it? This should have been the time to really go for it yet He is showing us what it would look like to live life God’s way, in a world that has the complete opposite pattern. Check this story out with Jesus found in John…
John 7:2 But soon it was time for the Festival of Shelters, 3 and Jesus’ brothers urged him to go to Judea for the celebration. “Go where your followers can see your miracles!” they scoffed. 4 “You can’t become a public figure if you hide like this! If you can do such wonderful things, prove it to the world!” 5 For even his brothers didn’t believe in him. 6 Jesus replied, “Now is not the right time for me to go. But you can go anytime, and it will make no difference. 7 The world can’t hate you, but it does hate me because I accuse it of sin and evil. 8 You go on. I am not yet ready to go to this festival, because my time has not yet come.” 9 So Jesus remained in Galilee. NLT
Amazing isn’t it? Jesus just refuses to do things in a way that would make sense to us. He moved slowly. He never rushed into things. He patiently waited for the right time, through his youth and into his young adult years before revealing himself as the Savior and even after revealing himself he still didn’t rush to be recognized…try to personalize that for a moment! Could you be so patient knowing who you were? He waited patiently for God’s timing during his ministry. Jesus always did the opposite, he wasn’t going to get into competition and the rat race. He wasn’t willing to push. He never fell into the patterns of this world. But really, how is this possible? How is it possible to have this kind of peace and rest and focus? Well Jesus was able to rebel from the busy clutter of this world by being completely submitted to God’s will for His life. When we submit to God’s will we no longer care what people think. When we submit to God’s will we don’t have to compete or push our names any more. When we submit to God’s will the ways of this world ways start to fade from our focus. The temptation of bigger, better, and more isn’t so tempting anymore. The idea of looking important to people doesn’t matter anymore because God’s will is front and center in our lives. Listen to what Jesus said here…this is the secret.
John 6:38 “For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.” NIV
Jesus had every reason to want to push his name. He had religious people coming at him from all sides, calling him names, accusing him of all kinds of things, and he was sent to save the world. Don’t you think it could have been easy for him to ignore Godly principles and work 24/7? He had the weight of the entire world on his shoulders yet he continued to live life God’s way rather than as we humans would have done it. Why? It’s because Jesus was fully submitted to the will of God, regardless of what else happened, God was first.
So today we discussed a tough subject. For so many of us we struggle with the idea of submitting to authority. We don’t like the idea of following orders. What is ironic is that doing life our way just doesn’t work. This is why God so lovingly gave us His written word to live by, literal guidelines to follow to live out that whole life to the full thing that I bring up all the time. God tells us how important obedience really is. And as we study Jesus, we can learn so much from Him. Jesus lived out a life of boundaries, of intentionality, and of perfect love. He was able to rebel against this world by submitting to God fully and that really is the secret to real rest. Wouldn’t that be nice to really rest? Real rest is found in following God’s will it’s found in trusting God’s ways over our own. This is such a big deal, and it’s my prayer that we could learn best without the pain that I have endured in this area of my life. God loves us enough to show us the way to live life to the full through His commands. I know you love God and you would never rebel against Him…so tell me, why is it that your life is such a grind? Why are you who is living in Christ so tired? Why are we not seeing this God energy surging into and out of our lives like we read about earlier?
Maybe it’s time to realize that busyness is beyond just a symptom of rebellion. Busyness is becoming the number one blocker from you, and that whole life to the full thing that Jesus said that He came to give you. You want to start living differently? It starts by dropping your pride and admitting that your way isn’t working. When you do that you can join a new rebellion. It’s a rebellion against the patterns of this world and it only starts when we submit to God. So how are you doing? Are you tired of the grind we call life? I’ve been there, and to be honest I would never have wanted to hear this message when either. You know why? Because deep down I knew that as thin as I was running and as over-committed as I was…I knew it was on me. I knew that I was ignoring God to do things my way and if you slow down enough to hear me today, I think you know it too. We love you hear at MRC and we don’t want to see you in that spot. It’s time to place our will to the side and break away from the patterns of this world, to live in God’s perfect will. When we trust Him, we will find real rest for our souls, the kind of rest that allows us to live a life of depth, of health, and of joy like we read about in scripture.